Virtual worlds are considered a pleasure of the developed world. After all, they require broadband internet connections, powerful computers, and the luxury of free time.
One education company is working to change that by bringing stripped-down mobile classrooms to the rural backroads of Latin America. Their goal? Educate the masses and improve quality of life.
ClaseMovil hopes to be the first private company to bring virtual worlds to groups previously written off as too impoverished. According to an article in DigitalBeat, they just might have what it takes.
Crops and Classrooms
From the article:
The ClaseMovil virtual world is presented as a place for children to play. Within the world, they’ll find educational videos and games. Teachers can then see the results of the activities to gauge how each student is progressing.
As the article mentions, ClaseMovil is far from the first tech company to see the profit incentive in expanding education to those previously beyond the reach of the school system. The Open University implemented Second Life as a means to extend its adult distance learning programs while lowering tuition costs.
But no one has done it quite like ClaseMovil, and none have made it a specific goal to provide education to students disadvantaged by finance as well as distance. Using just a half million dollars of start-up money, ClaseMovil developed a viable program for reaching into a region beset by an aging electric grid, a lack of broadband technology and highly variable, crop-dependent incomes.
Worldfund decried the poor state of education throughout Latin America, owing to the distance between rural communities and schools, as well as the inability of young people to leave farms or households where their presence may be necessary for chores and land work. ClaseMovil's solution is simple: make it possible for teachers and students to be in different towns.
Distance Learning for Brighter Futures
Much of the cost of schooling in Latin America comes from construction fees and teacher salaries, so students priced out of education are the prime target for something like virtual world teaching. Virtual distance education brings with it low overhead costs and the ability to participate in a classroom social environment without travel.
Expanding education is the first step towards building modern, stable economies in Latin America – Argentina and Brazil rose from regional basket cases to continental powers on the backs of ambitious expansions of public education. Brazil is poised to become a virtual world development hub as previously undereducated rural workers learn trades and move into cities.
ClaseMovil is certainly tackling a complicated issue, but the benefits are real. In Latin America, a lack of education can mean the difference between subsistence farming and productive citizenship. Virtual worlds could provide the bridge between farming and financial security in Latin America.